BEREA, Ohio – There’s no question that Josh Gordon can be a difference maker.
Not only does he make a lot of plays himself, he opens things up for those around him. In his first game back from a 10-game suspension, Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards (15.0 avg.), including a 24-yard reception.
In just one game, he’s already moved up to the ninth spot on the team in receptions. If he keeps the same pace, he’ll have over 700 yards in just a half dozen games.
However, some of the added benefits of having Gordon on the field is allowing Andrew Hawkins to move around and play more in the slot, which is what he was penciled to do when the Browns signed him.
"Obviously, Josh commands a lot of attention," Hawkins said. "Obviously, having him on the field is going to open things up for a lot of others, and I think it’ll only get better going forward because I don’t know if the Falcons had any special plans for Josh.
"(Last week, the Falcons) talked all week about our receivers’ speed, which we do have a lot of with Josh, Travis (Benjamin), Taylor (Gabriel) so I think that and the way they played helped open up a lot of things because they were playing so deep."
Mike Pettine agreed that Gordon’s presence can open things up for the offense.
"From a defensive standpoint and looking at how do you take a way an elite receiver and defend the run at the same time?" Pettine said. "That is a dilemma. I know it first hand from being in this league for as long as I have, so we know there will be some hidden effects.
"He’s a play maker, someone who’s shown as simple as a two-yard pass behind the line of scrimmage, he can navigate on a wide receiver screen for 15 to 20 yards, so it’s certainly something we’re looking to take advantage of but without disrupting the rhythm of our offense," Pettine said. "We’re not going to become just a pass happy team and feature him just to get him the ball. It’s going to have to come in the flow of our offense."
Pettine said besides Gordon’s ability to take the top off of coverage, an overlooked facet of Gordon’s game is his ability to block.
"Then, I think very underrated in his performance was he blocked extremely well in the run game," Pettine said. "There were some times where they were in some coverages that were geared to take him away that probably did lighten up the spacing for our guys up front to run the football."
Hawkins said with the return of Gordon, he not only played slot, but moved all over the field against the Falcons.
"I didn’t play every snap in the slot. I didn’t," Hawkins said. "I think we rotate so much at the receiver position. I guess you really have to know the nuances of the passing game and to formations to really see it, but I moved around a lot. I played X; I actually played more of all three field [wide receiver] positions than I have [in the past against Atlanta)."
Hawkins thinks Gordon is just starting to scratch the surface.
"I thought he played great. I think for his first game back after 10 weeks of no football at all, I don’t know if you could ask for a better performance, honestly," Hawkins said. "He’s such a gifted athlete. He’s such a gifted receiver. He did exactly what I expected him to do."
Pettine said he thinks the Bills have the best front four in the NFL and it will be a tough task to run against them, but if Gordon just does his job, the offense will be effective, even in the running game.
"We want Josh to just do his job," Pettine said. "Get open and if the opportunity presents itself and we can get the ball to him, that’s great. We don’t want to force it there but we also know that this guy is a Pro Bowl caliber receiver. He’s a heck of a weapon and we think he helps the run game."